Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Protecting Your Smartphone

We call them smartphones, but what you're really carrying around is a little computer that can also make telephone calls.  You protect your desktop at work and your laptop at home from viruses and malware, but are you protecting your smartphone?

How is your smartphone vulnerable? When you download apps, receive text messages, use public Wi-Fi or a Bluetooth connection, your phone can be attacked.

You're probably familiar with viruses, worms, Trojan horse attacks and spyware because these are what attack your other computers.  But with smartphones, these threats make up a small part of the problem.  (According to security software maker Lookout, only about 5% of Droid phones are infected with something.)

For now at least, the threats on your smartphone deal with your privacy and your money.  Applications you thought you downloaded for free (and skipped reading the User Agreement), may have hidden charges and bombard you with advertisements.

Have you ever left your keys or wallet somewhere? Now think about all the information in your smartphone.  Not just your contacts list, but your banking info and online bill paying and so forth.  If you lost the phone or it was stolen, a criminal could gather a lot of data on you.

That's where mobile security software comes in.  These security apps not only perform anti-virus and anti-spyware duty, but some can scan apps for malware you may not realize sneaked in with them.  If you've lost your phone, you can use its GPS to find its location, and even lock your phone in the meantime.  If the worst happens and you can't retrieve your phone, most security software enables you to wipe the phone's memory.

So before you download that next app, or leave your phone in a restaurant, consider loading up some security software.  You're not just protecting your smartphone, you're protecting yourself.

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(Here's an article by Sara Yin at PCMag that lists security software and some helpful utility programs.  Also, this chart at Top Ten Reviews compares the most popular security suites, their features and prices.)

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